rob presents the radiofreemidwich show episode 2! yes, already!

April 21, 2019 at 8:10 pm | Posted in no audience underground | 2 Comments
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the radiofreemiwich show episode two

Wow, using the evangelical zeal typical of the early days of any no-audience underground/DIY project I’ve somehow completed the second episode within a week of posting the first.  This won’t last, of course, but the current mixture of praise and purpose I’m breathing in is heady and motivating so I can’t be blamed for taking a long ol’ sniff.

This episode, still taut at 40 minutes – no time wasting here, features music from swefn, Caleb R.K. Williams and Ivonne Van Cleef, Ashtray Navigations, marlo eggplant, Cucina Povera and a WORLD EXCLUSIVE, no less, from The Skull Mask, as well as torrential rain on the roof of Leeds Tropical World and musings and mispronunciations by your host recorded in the back yard.

As before, please spread the word and let me know if you are digging it.

—ooOoo—

rob presents the radiofreemidwich show episode one!

April 16, 2019 at 8:09 am | Posted in no audience underground | Leave a comment
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the radiofreemidwich show episode one

About time, eh?  Inspired by the radio shows and podcasts created by Crow Versus Crow, We Need No Swords, Sophie Cooper, Neil Campbell and many other comrades I’ve decided to have a go myself.  TRFMS is resolutely lo-fi in presentation but full of furious beauty and, at 35 minutes, the ideal running time for busy influencers or damaged layabouts alike.  Featuring music from Void Vertex, Helicopter Quartet, Pumice, Penance Stare, Grey Frequency and The Master Musicians of Dyffryn Moor plus my office radiator gurgling!

Spread the word, let me know if you dig this and if there is any interest at all I’ll do some more.

—ooOoo—

this is true: rob hayler on ‘nothing’s good’ by duncan harrison

March 26, 2019 at 11:08 am | Posted in no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Duncan Harrison – Nothing’s Good

Index Clean, IC-011

CD edition of 100 or download, 3 tracks, 37 minutes

This fair stopped me in my tracks it did. For a few days I had it on repeat, listening intently to the content, noting the transitions and juxtapositions, transcribing the spoken ‘verse’ so I could read and reread it whilst tapping a pen thoughtfully against my ample forehead. I realised I was approaching it like a puzzle, an academic exercise – which always risks killing art stone dead – but I was powerless to stop. Then: a breakthrough. One night I dozed off with it playing and woke in the morning, headphones on the floor, to find the following three words written on a notepad I keep on my bedside table:

‘This is true’. My hand, no recollection of writing it, bang on the money. But I get ahead of myself…

Nothing’s Good is a short album comprising three substantial tracks (‘Are You Angry?’ 15 minutes, ‘A Good Night’ 14 minutes, ‘Its Blinking Torture’ 8 minutes) by Brighton-based artist and radiofreemidwich favourite Duncan Harrison. The first two tracks are collages given overall sense by a vibe clarified in the third. We have clockwork mice skittering in erratic circles, an ogre’s snoring heard from the base of the beanstalk, stretching and scraping as unsecured chandlery rolls round the deck of the Teignmouth Electron, kids throwing stones at an allotment greenhouse or a borderline alcoholic convincing themselves that staggering to the bottlebank counts as a ‘breath of fresh air’, a comically slurred interlude about a neighbour’s fondness for Metallica, spiralling loops of distressed organ drone – as fucked as a dropped kaleidoscope, theatrical coughing and some bad-ass table-top electronics: fury interspersed with silence.

But this is just me gabbing on, eh? I’m gently reminded that it is rude to talk over the music by ‘Its Blinking Torture’ which pulls all this back to the actual setting: two people sat at right angles to each other at a kitchen table… but miles apart. After an initial traumatizing squeak – a luggage trolley? A faulty appliance coming to the end of its cycle? Stuck between carriages on a packed commuter train? – the track is largely pregnant pause punctuated with sub- or near-vocalisations, barely audible hiss, looped whine and sproing. This acts as a bed/surround for a prose poem, repeated, in which Duncan describes meeting an antagonist, their relationship fractious, positions entrenched, and expresses concern about where he perceives they are headed. I’m not quoting it because I want you to listen and form your own interpretation. Suffice to say it is succinct, evocative and smart enough to invite serious thought as to its consequences.

Listening to this refigures what has come before. There is no need for my fairy tales and extravagant metaphors. The sounds used now seem entirely domestic – either sourced from the everyday or intended to convey the reality of living in a tricky situation. We walk on eggshells, we steam quietly (or not so quietly) with anger, we relish occasional moments of levity that are both a huge relief and a tragic reminder of what is slipping away.

The minimal cover art contains nothing but the title and the following two lines in italics:

an airport mobility aid. the ceiling and bathroom light.

a dismantled smart phone. the bus stop by Rose Hill Terrace.

I wonder if these items and this location were the sources of argument or the sources for some of the recordings. Easy to imagine both being the case and therein lies the genius at work here. Duncan has conjured a piece that is both satisfyingly ambiguous and specific enough to be highly relatable. Nothing’s good, in that doing and saying nothing can, temporarily at least and in these circumstances, divert our attention from the increasingly unavoidable conclusion that, in fact, nothing’s good.

This is true.

—ooOoo—

Duncan Harrison

narrative pareidolia: rob hayler on other forms of consecrated life

March 19, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Posted in no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Tepe Gawra – A Rise In The Chalcolithic

Elizabeth Cottern – Heschl’s Gyrus

Lynette Sandholm Evvers – Fundamental Colours

The Penitential Station – The Cloud of Forgetting

Eva Kierten – The Shattered Vessel

I have nothing to say about much of the music I love.  Whole genres affect me in profound but somehow pre- or post-verbal ways.  Hardcore punk, desert guitar and techno, for example, are as marrow to my bones, but I am, with rare exception, unable to share that experience in writing.  Many works of genius – last year’s album by SOPHIE, say – leave me spellbound but wordless, happy just to grin and thumb ‘repeat’.  A sharp moment in a pop song on tea-time Radio 1 can cut surprisingly deep:

Why are you crying Daddy?

Oh, you know son: life.  Eat your fish fingers.

Yet here’s this blog.  For archival/vanity reasons I arranged for a hard copy of radiofreemidwich to be printed.  It runs to more than 700,000 words, filling 3,000 pages.  As a physical object it has ridiculous heft.  Clearly, a primal urge in response to the remainder of what I hear is to write – this is the evidence – so what’s the difference?  I could trawl the records for repeated themes and keywords, I suppose, but that is a task best left to hunched scholars in the growing discipline of no-audience underground studies.  Instead I’m going to point to an endeavour that seems to exactly match these mysterious criteria, its presence causing the metaphor engine to hum and glow, and we’ll reverse engineer it from there.

Other Forms Of Consecrated Life is a Scottish label that has released five albums since its inauguration in January of 2016.  It appears to have no online presence other than its Bandcamp page and these releases are only available digitally.  There are bare bones Discogs listings and a Twitter account, also set up in January 2016, which has sent a mere handful of tweets.  Each release is accompanied by a black and white photograph of an historical artefact, a museum piece, presented unreferenced and closely cropped on a plain background, thus shorn of context.  The aesthetic is both neatly coherent and pleasingly enigmatic.  Great logo too.  The tag-line on both Bandcamp and in the Twitter bio is as follows:

Auditory excavations.  Eremetic Music.  Pareidolia.

The first clause doesn’t really need unpacking. ‘Eremetic’ means hermit which complements the idea of a consecrated life, of course. ‘Pareidolia’ is, to quote Wikipedia:

[a] psychological phenomenon in which the mind responds to a stimulus, usually an image or a sound, by perceiving a familiar pattern where none exists.

Thus seeing faces in wood grain or lunar craters, animals in cloud formations, the sound of my son crying out for me in the burr of the bathroom extractor fan and so on.  It will prove relevant.

All five of these releases are wonderful and come highly recommended, especially as there is a catalogue discount available on the Bandcamp page. I’m going to discuss two of them in detail.

I’ll start with Fundamental Colours by Lynette Sandholm Evvers.  Two tracks of heavy, deliberate, scything drone with an oily, liquid surface.  Both exactly 20 minutes long.  I read once that in pre-industrial times a whale’s song could be heard by its brethren hundreds of miles away, the ocean being a sonically clear medium.  The first of these tracks is a lament for this time before engines, a time-lapse audio documentary of the obliterating effect of churn and roar.  On repeated listens it only grows larger: a planet-wide intelligence calling out to its kind for help after an unmanned probe pierces its crust and begins an irreversible terraforming process.  It wails in alien frequencies as its flesh is made our grass.  The second track is equally substantial but less final.  We begin aeons prior with the planet-wide intelligence meditating contentedly on its own circadian rhythms.  We are party to the ebb and flow.  After a few minutes this is augmented by an unmistakeably human choral element as an aspect of this vast consciousness deciphers a radio signal it has slowly come to notice.  It considers composing a reply…

So far, so wonderful.  A beautifully bosky drone that brings out the high concept flash fiction writer in me.  But there is more.  Here are the liner notes from the Bandcamp listing (apologies for quoting at length):

First in a planned series of recordings from the archive of Lynette Sandholm Evvers, who produced a substantial body of work over a 20 year period. A lifelong synesthete, she began working with electronically generated sound in the late 1980s as a means of exploring her chromesthesia; a condition in which certain tones and timbres induce particularly vivid colour hallucinations. Never intended for public dissemination, OFoCL have managed to persuade the Evvers estate to release these recordings because we believe they deserve to be heard by the widest possible audience.

The recordings on Fundamental Colours, and in particular Photism (6), showcase her experimentation with FM synthesis, involving the slow timbral modulation of simple harmonic structures to produce a deeply hypnotic effect. The music presented here has been reproduced by carefully migrating the midi data from her original compositions into a digital workspace, allowing for the best possible fidelity and lowest signal-to-noise ratio. Evvers referred to her compositions only by number, but we have prefixed them with the word ‘photism’ – ‘a hallucinatory sensation or vision of light’.

Fascinating, eh?  An audio excavation of eremitic music!  Intrigued, I did a bit of google-based ‘journalism’ to see if anything else had been revealed in the year since it was released and, with growing amusement and suspicion, soon realised there is nothing online about this artist that isn’t directly related to this album.  Is this a hoax?  A pitch perfect recreation of the ‘discovery of important but previously unknown body of work’ narrative that so thrills anyone (like me) with an interest in ‘outsider’ music or the fringes of art practice?  I found a review in Vital Weekly (1109) in which Frans voices similar doubts, mentioning Doctor Edward Moolenbeek (the Hafler Trio member of questionable existence) and, like Frans, I could imagine the usual suspects going bananas for this if it was presented on a luxury physical format by a sanctified reissue label.

I’m choosing to interpret these liner notes as not being about the release but rather being part of the release.  It may be a true account of the genesis of the project but it doesn’t matter if it isn’t.  The story, along with the other aspects of the presentation, the context of the label aesthetic and the music itself forms a consistent and complete work of art.

Squinting over a plate of fried noodles, my steamed up glasses on the table beside me, I talked with Christopher Whitby about learned behaviour.  Whilst I’m suspicious of notions such as ‘connoisseurship’, I’m happy to agree that experience helps clarify the pleasures and nuance to be found in ‘difficult’ music.  We talked about [and here, in-between the words ‘about’ and ‘how’, three months pass whilst my attention turns again to real life. I forget exactly what was said, my notes are lost, so what follows is a useful fiction. My apologies to Chris] how immersing yourself in noise can be like lowering yourself into a scalding hot bath – initially uncomfortable, even painful, but ultimately profoundly satisfying, even meditative. I spoke about how I’ve learned to use narrative to make sense of my experience of this largely abstract body of art and enjoy conveying this experience by writing it down. My ‘reviews’ are less an expression of opinion, I only write about what I like, more a string of qualia expressed as a story. Not every genre seems amenable to this approach, as mentioned in my introduction, but those that do hit hard.

Onto Heschl’s Gyrus by Elizabeth Cottern. Three tracks, ‘Akoasm’ parts I, II and III, again conjuring the alien. Part I is a description of a mighty creature, the size of a family car, part panther part stag beetle. Its chitin is so black and polished it is difficult to make out its overall form. The impression of power it gives as it elegantly unfolds its limbs, testing the heavy chains that tether it, is breathtaking. It shakes and buzzes, implacable in its obvious belief that regaining its freedom is simply a matter of will, enjoying intimidating members of the court where it takes pride of place in the menagerie. Part II is a recording of a gamelan orchestra performing elsewhere in the same castle, distorted by being picked up on spying devices and transmitted via shortwave radio. This smearing reveals an angry, melancholy subtext under the harmless, celebratory surface. Part III is an epic, half hour journey via ornithopter through the canyons surrounding the court, as if touring the convolutions of a gigantic, calcified brain. Which turns out to be a very appropriate image…

The label has this to say:

‘Auditory aurae occurring in the context of epilepsy have been described since ancient times.’
Unknown artist, Elizabeth Cottern. No previous discography, as far as we can ascertain. Heschl’s Gyrus shows her preoccupation with psychical auditory phenomena. Maximal electronic drone, verging on noise.

Another audio excavation of eremitic music then. Allegedly.  Intrigued by the mention of epilepsy and following a hunch I googled the title and found out that Heschl’s Gyrus are part of the brain that processes auditory information.  This would have been cool enough but reading through the wikipedia entry I found a line which knocked me backwards:

Research on the inner voice perceived by humans led to the identification of these gyri as the area of the brain activated during such dialogue with oneself.

HOLY SHIT! Do I really need to reverse engineer some psychological reason for my writing preferences by examining the qualities of the art or have I just stumbled on a physiological explanation for why some noise leads me to spin stories?  Does abstract music of certain kinds tickle my Heschl’s in a way that gets me talking to myself?  Does it provoke a kind of narrative pareidolia? My tongue is in cheek here, of course, but I’d love to stick my head in some kind of scanner and see which noggin wrinkles light up when listening to and thinking about the output of this exemplary label.  And there is no higher praise than that.

—ooOoo—

Other Forms Of Consecrated Life

@0therF0rms

happy new year humans: it’s the rfm zellaby list for two thousand and eighteen

January 1, 2019 at 2:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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zellaby-award-envelope (1)

That 2018 was a hard year for many eh?

The impact of recent seismic political and cultural change has reached its grubby hands into our lovely underground and started poking and prodding.  In 2018 I witnessed an underground scene fractured, where tempers were frayed and short.  Reasonable people and reasonable debate had given way to, barely disguised jealously, name-calling and shaming.  Social media, that onetime ally of the powerless, became a toxic swamp of subtweeting, humble bragging, opinion presented as fact and relentless negativity.

It’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  And yet…

There’s something so powerful about the ideas that accompany NAU/DIY music.  With little commercial expectation it still remains truthful and pure.  With no piper to pay we are free to pursue our own directions, explore strange cul-de-sacs and settle into comfortable dead ends.  Our music is often, literally, a gift.  Either between two real-life people connecting in any manner of means or, if using the ‘pay what you like’ option, a gift for the many we are yet to meet.

While it may be true that a DIY lifestyle rarely offers solutions, I feel it offers something approaching equal value.  It offers hope.  Hope that we can prevail in a toxic world, hope that invention, kindness and humility are still highly valued by some. Hope that we can create a safe space in a world that seems to be careering into a period of sustained traumatic shock.

For these reasons I feel, this year, it’s all the more important to celebrate this hope.

As you will know RFM spent most of 2018 hibernating and not all the RFM writers have had time to contribute so you are stuck with Rob, Luke and myself.

In a spirit of what Kathleen Hannah calls “non-competition and praise” we humbly present you the Zelleby lists 2018.

Rob Hayler

Happy New Year folks!  I wish you a peaceful 2019 and hope that 2018 left you smiling.  I realise that might be a vain hope given that the world is hurtling towards Armageddon but, hey, let’s leave the existential terror to one side for a few minutes and distract ourselves with talk of music.  It’s fine.  This is fine.  I SAID IT’S FINE.

*Ahem*

RFM being on hiatus for the majority of the year has been refreshing.  It hasn’t stopped me writing – add up my account of TUSK (below), my pieces for TQ Zine, various unfinished articles and a frankly embarrassing number of tweets and it totals around 15 thousand words – but the absence of pressure has invigorated my listening habits and left me untethered from critical consensus.  I’ve also found time for see monsd, my post-midwich recording project, and two albums of gurgling tweakage and heavy loopism have been followed by more high concept shenanigans with Posset and yol.  A collaboration with Stuart Chalmers will follow in due course.  I’m proud of how this has worked out and must give thanks again to Chrissie and Ross for donating the kit I am now hunched over.  Angels both.

Right then: lists, sort of.  I’ll mention a ‘proper label’, a ‘not really a label’ and then gesture towards recordings made by 27 acts that had me hovering two inches above the floor during 2018.

OFOCL

My ‘proper’ label of the year is Other Forms of Consecrated Life.  I’m currently halfway through an account of its many qualities which I hope to publish in the New Year so, for now, here are the bare facts of the matter.  Based in Scotland, OFOCL has released four albums since its inauguration in January of 2016.  It appears to have no online presence other than its Bandcamp page and these releases are only available digitally.  There are bare bones Discogslistings and a Twitter account, also set up in January 2016, which has sent a mere handful of tweets.  Each release is accompanied by a black and white photograph of an historical artefact, a museum piece, presented unreferenced and closely cropped on a plain background, thus shorn of context.  The aesthetic is both neatly coherent and pleasingly enigmatic.  Great logo too.  The tag-line on both Bandcamp and in the Twitter bio is as follows:

“Auditory excavations.  Eremetic Music.  Pareidolia.”

I will say more in due course.  I insist you check it out.

The ‘not really a label’ is ‘self-released on Bandcamp’.  My routine is well established: during the day I follow recommendations, mainly garnered from twitter, dutifully keeping a browser tab open for each.  On retiring to bed those that are ‘name your price’ are dozily downloaded to my ‘phone, either paying nowt or an amount depending on proximity to payday or whether my paypal account contains anything I can pass on.  Those that require a specific fee are placed on my wish list, triaged and either discarded or purchased according to taste and resources.  Releases acquired this way are listened to mainly via (surprisingly good) wireless headphones as I nod off, walk to and from work or busy myself around the house.  The huge majority of my life in music is now comprised of this process and I find it magical.  The efficiency, the frugality with which I can navigate an unimaginable catalogue, dizzying myself with novelty, whilst offering direct support to artists (who are sometimes also friends) is borderline miraculous.  I guess I can almost still understand preferring the physical exercise of crate digging – the rush of discovery, the thwap of sleeve on sleeve, the smell, the crackle of a run-in groove – but I’ve no time for anyone who scoffs at my alternative.  There are problems of course – some big – but that doesn’t stop Bandcamp being the most interesting thing to happen to music distribution since the mainstreaming of digital piracy in the 90s.

OK, my 27 recording artists of 2018 are below.  One or two of those mentioned might stretch the usual remit of this blog but, y’kno, fuck it.  Where a particular release has stood out, the link will take you directly to it but many of the artists featured have been prolific and are included in recognition of all the new pages in their own strange atlases. Given the ‘Little Nemo in Slumberland’ method by which I amassed most of this year’s highlights (“Gee Willikers! ‘Yesterday Rob’ has purchased a most fanciful download for ‘Today Rob’ to enjoy!”) the idea of a monolithic, numbered list seemed even more illegitimate than usual.  As such, may I present a new way of arranging my year’s favourites?  Everything that falls within the circles is bloody marvellous and absolutely worthy of your careful attention.  The closer it comes to the centre the more it chimed with me.  The alphabetical list of links is also a key to the graphic.  I think the solid red outermost circle might signify ‘the North East noise scene’ or ‘pastoral psych drone’.  Or maybe Kate Bush…

A             Adrian Shenton

B             Bridget Hayden

C             caroline mckenzie

D             chlorine

E              Chrissie

F              Clemency

G             Dale Cornish

H             Daniel John Williams

I               Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper

J              Depletion

K             Guttersnipe

L              Hawthonn

M            Helicopter Quartet

N             Ivonne Van Cleef

O             Kieran Mahon

P             Marlo Eggplant

Q             Naido

R             Penance Stare

S              Robert Ridley Shackleton

T              Saboteuse

U             Sectioned

V             SLEEPMASSK

W            SOPHIE

X             Spelk

Y              Stuart Chalmers

Z              Wizards Tell Lies

ZZ           Xqui

Concentric Circles

Some notes:

SOPHIE

UN-INSIDES

Firstly, the release that falls furthest from the usual ‘no-audience’ remit of this blog: OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S UN-INSIDES by SOPHIE.  In some nearby but alternate universe this has been the best selling album of the year by orders of magnitude.  It has a quality, in spades, that I value above almost any other when it comes to ‘pop’ music: it sounds like it has been beamed back to us from the future.  From the glorious permission of ‘It’s OK to Cry’ – a velvet crowbar opening your rib cage – to the industrial strength, mentholated joy of ‘Whole New World/Pretend World’ this is a triumph.  I didn’t pay much attention to the ‘end’ of year lists prematurely spunked over an appalled November and December but I assume this topped most of them.  How could it not, right?

MOST PLAYED

Let’s return to a scuzzy, black-painted upstairs room.  Possibly my most played single track of the year is a recording of a gig by Clemency at The Fenton pub in Leeds and which was made available afterwards to interested attendees (such as myself) via Dropbox.  How’s that for no-audience underground, fuckers!?  I don’t know if this piece – a cross-genre skittering collage of unplaceable emotions, clattering beats and sliding bass – is emblematic of her work in general but a resolution for 2019 is to check out her Soundcloud archive and her ongoing radio show.

Saboteuse

ONE OFFS

How about the indefinable masterwork X by Saboteuse on Crow Versus Crow, eh?  A tape that evoked a kind of eye-bugging wild-take, like the listener was a Warner Brothers toon that had wandered into a David Attenborough documentary edited by Herschell Gordon Lewis.  Or the all-conquering Red Goddess (of this men shall know nothing) by Hawthonn?  A profoundly magical album that floats from the fecundity of the valley floor to the ageless moorland tops.  It’s been great to see Phil and Layla playing out – each version of ‘Lady of the Flood’ I see further securing its status as track of the year.  Scrying by Penance Stare was a revelation too – a model of deliberation in the face of rage and confusion, a head-clearing walk through a frozen dusk.

caroline mckenzie

PROLIFICISM

As already mentioned, several of the artists listed have taken advantage of the ease offered by Bandcamp and have been busy filling chests with treasure.  Chief amongst these is caroline mckenzie whose thoughtful, beautiful, longform albums are, on the surface, as welcome and restoring as warm sand underfoot but always have an emotional complexity revealed by close listening.  Kieron Mahon has had it good too.  My favourite of several equally excellent releases is Big Wheel – a kosmische journey with a utopian groove that reminds me at times of Kraftwerk’s ‘Neon Lights’, which is the highest praise of course.  chlorine also filled a swimming pool with fluid, odd tasting, eye-stinging (sorry, that’s enough chlorine jokes) albums.  I had Grassi pegged as a (very talented) drone artist having just heard Silk Trees and Solace but listened with increasing interest as later releases started to more resemble the aesthetic of his terrific photographic collages.  Special mention must also be made of Matt Dalby who has been tirelessly cataloguing his life and artistic endeavours with YouTube and other social media.  A small band of followers, myself included, have enjoyed his vocal improvisations, his accounts of lengthy walks, his comics about autism and his videos about eating insects as snack food.  A hefty body of work is gathering, documenting a unique worldview.  Finally for this section I’m going to shamelessly lump together A WHOLE COUNTRY, like a giant fistful of multi-coloured playdoh in the hands of a naughty toddler, and proclaim this ‘The Year of the Dragon’.  2018 revealed to me a bunch of Welsh underground music pulled together by Ash Cooke (a.k.a. Chow Mwng) and the Dukes of Scuba zine.  Possibly my favourite of these artists was Xqui who worked tirelessly to get approximately nine million tracks up on Bandcamp and, amazingly, kept the quality control needle wavering around ‘superb’ for the whole year.

Adrian Shenton

DRONE/NOISE

Now a paragraph on the genres I am perhaps most closely associated with.  Should you wish your noise to be as bleak, desolate and hostile as a nuclear winter then brace yourself for Final Exit by the extraordinary Depletion.  If your nihilism is of a more cosmic strain – At the Mountains of Madness rather than The Road, say – then I recommend The Transmission by Naido which is a deep dive into turbid waters with an entertaining Lovecraftian back-story.  The soul music continues with the self-titled SLEEPMASSK, which provides an unnerving subcutaneous vibration which somehow feels corrective.  head/rush(ed) by Marlo Eggplant is a collection of curios, miniatures, sketches and exploratory procedures given coherence by a formidable aesthetic, irresistible charisma and dry humour.  Adrian Shenton’s The House That Jack Built is constructed from the cawing of jackdaws, my favourite of the mighty corvids, and thus wins this year’s ‘fuck, I wish I’d thought of that myself’ prize.  Spelk has the great fortune to sound exactly like an inspired collaboration between Neil Campbell and Daniel Thomas.  Possibly because it is.

Wizards Tell Lies

UNACCOUNTABLES

Over the holiday period some of us may have spent time with rarely seen relatives and been in an awkward spot when they’ve said something politically unsavoury or made daft claims like ‘nobody ever discovered anything via a shared Spotify playlist’.  I mean, what can you say?  Probably best just to help them to a chair, put 6Music on for them and slowly back out of the room smiling.  Serendipity remains, of course, rife.  For example, one of my favourite albums of the year came to my attention indirectly when Daniel John Williams joined in with a twitter conversation I was having about a mild fetish I confessed to (peeling the protective film from a gloss surface).  I checked out his work and the spacious, carefully constructed collages of Meet me on the corner became an instant staple.  I literally have no idea how I got to Ivonne Van Cleef as I sleep-downloaded the work, but I was intrigued immediately by the lack of information (“Ivonne Van Cleef is a one person band from San Jose, California.”), the numbered releases, the unifying aesthetic of the photography and, of course, the music itself which is a subtle mixture of desert guitar and technological elements which make it almost unplaceable [STOP PRESS: via IVC I’ve just stumbled over Caleb R.K. Williams and Selected Works is playing as I type – bloody hell, it’s great!].  The fantastic Bad Nature by Wizards Tell Lies landed via that most glorious of promotional tactics – a tweet full of download codes and an invitation to help yourself.  Mate, my scrabble to take advantage is always unseemly.  This album fucking rocks.  I described it at the time as ‘steely industro-punk two thirds sunk into tar-pit metal’ and ain’t going to better that today.

Guttersnipe

Chrissie

FINALLY

Despite being known nowadays mainly as a middle-aged, dronetronika beardy I’ve kept tabs on punk and metal since I was a thrash-teen in the grindcore/grunge boom of the late 80s.  2018 has seen one of my periodic upticks in interest, possibly due to the political shitstorm forcing slurry into every cranny of our existence, and you’ll be glad to know that I still like both kinds: fast and slow.  Of the stuff new to me this year the album I return to, like a tongue wobbling a tooth loosened whilst ‘resisting arrest’, is Annihilated by Sectioned.  I don’t know how to breakdown the genres and microgenres it belongs to, just that it is incredibly fast and brutal but played with such fluidity and space that the experience of listening is all consuming.  It’s hardcore.

My most hotly anticipated release of 2018 was My Mother The Vent by Guttersnipe and I know that feeling was widely shared.  Some also expressed an uneasiness as to whether the record would capture the screaming ferocity of the band’s incomparable live assault, but I would (I think) have been disappointed if they’d just ‘bootlegged’ themselves.  I wanted to see what the duo, both whip-fucking-smart of course, would do with a new medium and, much to my great delight, it is as accomplished as I expected it to be.  The noise is barely describable – an ecstatic rage, a seriousness of intent that teeters on the edge of hilarity, an amazing musicianship in the service of chaos – however the best, most eye opening track is the least similar to the tsunami of the live show.  The closer, ‘God’s Will To Gain Access’, begins as snipey as you like but, over its nearly 11 minute run dubs out into a magic carpet ride over a Hieronymous Bosch hellscape.  Neil Campbell described this as the album ‘grinding to a halt’, which made me laugh and is as good a take as any, but I read into it an almost entirely opposite meaning.  I saw this as a statement of intent – a way of using recording to escape what has already become their expected ‘sound’ and a way of linking it to the other projects – like Blood Claat Orange, say – that Gretchen and/or Rob are involved with.  The options this approach frees up are boggling.  They’ve practised with Hawthonn, for example – think on that without fidgeting with anticipation!  I imagine this album was second on everyone’s list after SOPHIE.  Well, it’s second on mine too.

The very last artist I wish to mention is Chrissie Caulfield.  As one half of Helicopter Quartet (the other being Michael Capstick) she has produced two albums of exceptional quality this year: Last Death of the Phoenix and Revisited (the latter being reconfigurations of eight highlights from the HQ back catalogue) but it is a solo release under her own name that I wish to discuss.  It’s not a Game is a four track EP totalling 20 minutes and in that short run time Chrissie pulls off something near-miraculous.  Via a bank of synths, her piano and violins she conveys something true and meaningful about what it is to be us.  The cover photo looks like a mountain rescue team trudging across a moor on their way to rescue some hapless, ill-prepared accident victim (an amusing counterpoint to the windswept, magick romanticism of the Hawthonn cover).  It complements the title and the vibe of the music perfectly – the exasperation, the frustration bordering on rage, but also the solemn knowledge that someone needs to take responsibility for salvaging the situation.  It’s grown up, serious music but at its core it has kindness, not ‘ruffle-your-hair, don’t-spend-it-all-at-once’ kindness but the foundational type borne of love and respect.  It’s humbling and beautiful.  If I had to pick a favourite release of 2018 I think it would be this.

So, with apologies to those not mentioned (especially many lovely RFM regulars usurped by all these newcomers) that is your lot.  Here’s looking forward.  Take care, people, and be kind.  All is love.

Rob x

Luke Vollar

“In 41 years I’ve drunk 50,000 beers, and they just wash against me like the sea into a pier.”

Not my words sadly, but the words of David Berman, slightly modified to make a point, although I’m not sure what my point is?

Perhaps it’s the years getting more blurred with advancing years. To confidently announce that Sheffield punks Rat Cage wrote the anthem for 2018 with their phlegm-saturated masterpiece ‘Pressure Pot’ from the superb seven inch Caged like Rats only to realise that it was actually released in 2017!  No matter as the equally awesome Blood on your Boots was released this year.

blood on your boots

The raw surge of excitement that is harsh noise, courtesy of Limbs Bin, does that insect-warfare-through-a-primitive-rig thing.  LB’s Josh Landes is a one-man noise grinder from the USA happy to occasionally chuck in a Steely Dan cover for the heck of it.  His One Happy World record is a brief but thrilling ride.
Werewolf Jerusalem released a ‘proper’ CD of dark brooding electronic minimalism called The Nightmares and old faves Usurper (along with Jelle Crama) released ‘Booby Prize’ – a fine release who’s handsome packaging matches the wondrous sounds within. Still beguiling in 2018!

usurper booby

And a late contender for album of the year is the self-titled debut from Notts based, UK metal duo Shrykull (released on CD in a run of 100).  This tasty disc displays a fine vintage of motorcycle huffing excellence. Dig it!

Joe Posset

This has been the year when I’ve listened to more ‘mainsteam’ stuff than ever before.  So, 2018 has seen me cue up new and old sounds from: Big Brave, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Lizzy Mercier Descloux, Kamasi Washington, Joni Mitchell, Gore, Toshi Ichiyangi, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Autechre, Alice Coltrane, Earth, Old Dirty Brubeck, Julia Holter, Tal National, Soft Machine & The Shrubs.  Thanks to all of you who knocked the rough edges off a rough year.

NAU Records and tapes

caught in the wake forever

  • Sheer beauty love-bite swoon from Caught in the Wake Forever & glacis on Version & Delineation (Crow Versus Crow)
  • Sophisticated coffee-table head noodle from Rodrigo Tavares on Congo (Hive Mind)
  • Fever-dream night-sweat funk from Robert Ridley-Shackleton on Stone Cold Crazy (Crow Versus Crow)
  • Un-translatable earth songs from the strongest spirit imaginable by Jean-Marie Massou on Sodorome Vol 1 (Vert Pituite La Belle)

ROMAN-NOSE-LP-front

  • Blood-red kif-smoke & mind rickets from Roman Nose on Roman Nose (Singing Knives/Humane Pyramid)
  • Inward spiralling fingerprint jass from Blood Stereo on Tape Loop Meditations (Chocolate Monk)
  • Regional top-of-the class weirdos. All the Various Artists on The Harrowing of the North (End of The Alphabet Records)
  • Workbench experiments to gnarly fingers plucking ripe air from Chow Mwng on Stuttering Hand (Self Release)
  • Slick brain-fold of Lear-esque proportions from Gwilly Edmondez on Trouble Number (Slip Imprint)
  • Quick-blubber-vocal-blabber from Fritz Welch on A Desire to Push Forward Without Gaining Access to Anything (Radical Documents)
  • Painful jaw-twang and cavity vibrations from Chik White on Their Faces Closed (Chocolate Monk)

tom and stuart

  • And the THF Drenching prize for exceptional tapewerk goes to Stuart Chalmers and Tom White for Awkward Objects (Fractal Meat)

Live shows

shunyata

Records and tapes are great and all but no scene would survive without real-life interaction.  Gigs are a vital part of the NAU so I say a huge ‘yeah man’ for the regular lunchtime shows at Gateshead’s Shipley Art Gallery featuring celebrated dark artists: Culver , Xazzaz and the super spaced-out Shunyata Improvisation Group among others.

There was more lunchtime fun at The Newcastle University’s Kings Hall, this time with the exceptional Joe McPhee/John Pope/Paul Hession first-time trio as part of Newcastle’s Jazz & Improvised Music festival.  Two hundred swinging OAPs can’t be wrong!

Bradford’s FUSE was one of my favourite places to play this year (in a trio with the mighty Yol and Toby Lloyd) combining supremely relaxed venue folk (Hi Chris) with great, reasonably priced, locally-sourced drinks all presented at travel-friendly times.  After the show pretty much everyone who didn’t have a bus or train to catch decamped to a nearby pub to keep the conversation going.  Splendid stuff.

Miya_Masaoka_-_photo_by_Heike_Liss-517x355

2018 marks the year I saw my first ever ‘proper’ full-on orchestra with the super-beautiful, super-minimal piece The Movement of Things composed by Miya Masaoka and conducted by Ilan Volkov at Tectonics Glasgow.  The whole thing floored me with as much impact as Black Flag did when I was a spotty teen.

The Old Police House in Gateshead hosted many, many exceptional nights; the standout for me being Ali Robertson & Joyce Whitchurch’s drama/improv/morality tale that held me in a zonked trance throughout its brilliant duration.

20181015_105923

And in a TUSK festival crammed full of highs (Hameed Bros, Dale Cornish, Saboteuse, Pinnel, our very own Marlo Eggplant, Limpe Fuchs, Adam Bohman & Lee Patterson were all beautiful) the wonderful ink-haired Robert Ridley-Shackleton won the hearts of my whole damn family with his utterly charming, whip-smart funky and brain-boggling performance.  The Cardboard Prince reigns supreme.

And talking of reigning…although the ice-hockey venue was rubbish and they were a bit tired and sloppy, I finally got a chance to see another teen favourite – bloody SLAYER with my teenage kids.  And things don’t get any more metal than that.

\m/  \m/

The increasing importance of MP3 Blogs and Internet Radio cannot be denied; creating another platform for DIY artists to inhabit, I give a New Year Blog Cheer to the super classy Slow Goes the Goose, outrageously niche Bulletproof Socks, DIE or D.I.Y and Bleak Bliss (again).

As for Internet Radio I’ve goofed on the clever selections and dulcet tones of: Free Form Freakout, Ramshackle Sunrise, Sindre Bjerga & Claus Poulsen’s history of Danish & Norwegian Experimental Music, Tor FM, Fae Ma Bit Tae Ur Bit, QT and the much missed Crow Versus Crow.

And finally.  Here is my special shout out to everyone who made me a mixtape, sent me a link or a CD-r.  These kindnesses are always appreciated and cherished.  For every zine written, lent or sent; to every gig bootlegger, interviewer, blogger and promoter.  Thank you.  Jx

-ooOOoo-

prick mason: rfm on id m theft able, robert ridley-shackleton,  leitmotiv limbo/rnp no2 and gwilly edmondez

November 25, 2018 at 11:35 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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ID M Theft Able – Clean Houses Exude Fear (Mang Disc)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Stone Cold Crazy (Crow Versus Crow)

Leitmotiv Limbo/RNP No2 – Split (Hyster Tapes)

Gwilly Edmondez  – Trouble Number (Slip Imprint)

IDM Theftable

ID M Theft Able – Clean Houses Exude Fear (Mang Disc) C30 Cassette

In the multi-faceted world of ID M Theft Able I guess this would be classed as a Rap Album.  Concrete words and phrases are to the fore and the slapstick Foley-explosion is boiled down to a set of insistent hollow-point beats.   But anyone expecting swaggering brags about cars, girls and dollars will be misty-eyed and disappointed.  Less Young Thug more Big Hug.  Trades Description jobsworths begone!

“The sight of your blood is always OK, you fall off your leg, what did you right, the sight of your blood is always OK”

The narrative is caught in aspic and carefully chipped away to reveal the irritated wasp inside. Repetition and subtle sense-change is ‘wrapped/rapped’ in breathless stanzas each collapsing on each other piled up like a language Jenga (or something).  With such dense texts meanings are shucked like a plump oyster and guzzled whole, lining the brain pan with glistening salty gloop.

“There ain’t no desert, it’s like staring at the sun, it’s like staring at the sun, it’s like staring at the sun, other people see you they see you, you take your eyes from the sun and you bust your mouth”

The pace is pretty much relentless making this a very physical listen…I’m out of breath just jamming this tape at home.  Heaven knows what it must have been like to sing the darn thing.

“Shove it.  Shove it, Ah-wah, Shove it, Shove it, Ah-wah, Exist, Exist, Fight, Fight”

So readers…if you are new to ID M this is a great, yet fairly untypical, place to start. But with such a varied discography if you wanna get wet, you have to dive in somewhere eh?  Check out his bonkers MangDisc site and label for details and while you wait for this shit to ship get goofed on strange passwords, online tests and quivering graphics.

Go Go Go!

RRS stone cold crazy

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Stone Cold Crazy (Crow Versus Crow) C20 cassette or digital album

The great Robert Ridley-Shackleton (RRS) seems unstoppable right now.  After a bunch of essential Chocolate Monk releases and a pair of sublime performances at this year’s TUSK festival RRS is tearing up the dancefloor ‘card style’.

A world of funk, noise and gnarly confession is fully realised on this dark tape from the exceptional Crow Versus Crow label.

The title track, ‘Stone Cold Crazy’, merges Robert’s patent Tupperwave sound with teetering wonk-keyboard rhythms in a high-energy funk workout.  But of course the Cardboard Prince has his signature moves and the punnet crackle leaps through my headphones adding layers of gritty confusion to this banger.  ‘Pest Control’ is lyrically the darkest I’ve heard RRS, a disembodied, disinterested monologue over relentless t’wave somehow reminding me of the ickiness of my one and only listen to Throbbing Gristle.  The Side A closer ‘Bury me’ warbles beneath a barrage of clack-clack and close-mic rapping that seems to slip in and out of reality.  A demented carny riff completes the mental image of some dilapidated circus tent, hot animal scents wafting out the canvas flaps.

Side B starts with the bold statement ‘Yol 4 President’ so I’m expecting a joyful noise, a cathartic boil-burst.  But this is more of a leaky pustule, a damp spreading yellow stain on a bandage with some inwardly focused angst.  Much of Robert’s vocal is mumbled and hidden beneath static sheets but the announcement “God is Santa and Santa is God” is clear and filled with secret meaning.

There’s a wonderful jump-cut from the high-octane rattle that ends ‘Yol 4 President’ to the thumping ‘Dirty Cardboard’ complete with snarling multiple voices, ripped and shredded into many funky pieces.  Dirty indeed, this track lets it ALL hang out in ALL the right places.

The final piece ‘Snack Effective’ is a bee’s nest of hiss and rumble.  Like the insects got tired of slave labour and revolt into busy explosions of sexy freedom.  RRS’s early ‘pocket jazz’ sound is revisited and honks like Louis Armstrong huffing his old cornet full of boiled rice.

As you’d expect from Crow Versus Crow the damn tape looks outstanding with a beautiful collage collaboration wrapping up this true vibe machine in a glittery package.

Hyster split

Leitmotiv Limbo/RNP No2 – Split (Hyster Tapes) C30 Recycled Cassette

This glorious, DIY as you like, split tape from Hyster really is the business.

The great Leitmotiv Limbo delivers a side of their trademark music-as-psychic-attack.  In a series of smeared moans the mysterious Leitmotiv molds deep throbs from what I’m guessing is some sort of woolly synth and jacked it straight to the dirtiest, most warped tape in their collection for a quick foggy mastering job.

Each column of sound is oscillating like a sausage being pumped with sonic gristle and fat.  The plump pink hands of the butcher (each fingernail a crescent of blood) are surprisingly agile and gentle as the tube of minced flesh gets heavier and heavier.  Now imagine the gory mess being mashed slowly, sensuously into your ears.

It’s not all spit and sawdust…things get decidedly holy on ‘Door C’ as a whiff of incense coils like rope hissing through the gates of heaven.  The mood is deepened on ‘Door E’ which generates that feeling of helpless exhaustion after an early winter run.  You stand, steaming like a racehorse, hands on hips, breathing in the frigid air, the mind a perfect, beautiful blank.

In the best possible way Leitmotiv Limbo conjure up the in-between moments of life.  The pauses and stutters; the twitches and delicious stretches.  A satisfied yawn cast in iron.

Side two offers RNP No2, another mysterious presence, who operates in a similar sound world to that great Dane Claus Poulsen but with perhaps more of a pick n’ mix approach.  Each piece is a perfect, stand-alone unit showing a variety of styles and obsessions.

So, what may be rubber batons are beating gently against a copper tube as a single note is worried and plucked from within a felt piano.  Or, on the wonderfully titled ‘The Pink Flowd pecking order’, bristling electric-hums play the drums and collect the empties at the bar at the same time.  I don’t know about you but for me that’s classic Prick Mason material.

Other jams of note take a tin bassoon feeding back through Jah Shaka’s soundsystem (or something) that slowly turns into early Dead C clanging, ringing and singing.

We’re eased out of the listening space with a buffling roar, it could be more rubberised twigs on vibrating pig skin, it could be a puffy cheek slapped until it glows maroon. I’ve no idea what is happening, and what has happened is no guarantee of what is next to come.

What a wonderful place to be eh?

Gwilly Edmondez SLIP

Gwilly Edmondez  – Trouble Number (Slip Imprint) Double tape (C60 and C30) or digital album

“Make your own world now” croons Mr Gwilly Edmondez (AKA Gustav Thomas and MYKL JAXN) on his career-spanning double-bulge tape package.

And even the most cursory peak into this wonderfully detailed bumper-harvest reveals a singular world that screams “E.D.M.O.N.D.E.Z!”

Tape one is comprised of unreleased gunk, radio broadcasts, classic album trax and live excursions as Gwilly leafs through his famously chaotic archive to pluck the ripest fruit, the sweetest meat from as far back as 1986.

As you’d expect a lot can happen in all them dusty years so many, many, many bases are covered my dear readers.  You want the slick quick dictaphonix?  You got it.  You crave the sampling keyboard rainbow-beans?  Tick yes sister.  Is your personal Jones for the trademark un-sense gibber and brain-fold poetry?  Consider yourself satisfied brother.

But this time-romp is no haphazard kitchen sink-style hodgepodge.  The sense of the man (the very, very Gee Edmondez) feels as comfortable and natural as a favourite moccasin. All the pinches have been ironed out resulting in gratifying fullness.  In fact there are few hard, sharp edits and things flow like one of those Fabric Mixes (or something).

The spectre of Southen Rap flavours many of these jamz like hickory-smoked BBQ.  And, as would be fitting for a sweet n’ sticky rib, it’s darn slippery too.  At points I’m thinking a Chopped and Screwed Stanley Unwin at others a hacked Eno biscuit but towards the end I’m exhaustedly thinking of Hugo’s big Balls.

Tape Two (Gnarlage of Self) sees EdMoNdEz  jamming good in the more recent year of 2017.  Here the method is to record a free-flowing data dump of capricious tunage on tape, keys, percs and gits then pass the resulting loopage to one Dario Lozano Thornton for editage.

At times this layering offers a Jack Kirby dimension, all bright colours, freaky angles and cosmic pronouncements.  At others the live-in-the-room feel (bolstered by inter-jam bantz and nervous laughter) is more a modern day Alan Lomax capturing a chrome-plated Sonny Terry.   And the blues reference is very deliberate readers for this tape is an unwinding transport spiel, a word-salad for sure but underpinned by the railroad whoop of the freight train hobo.

I guess the question such a well-referenced retrospective raises is, ‘so what’s changed on the journey man?’  I can safely report back that to my ears it’s pretty much everything and at the same time nothing. The tunes may differ but the voice remains utterly distinctive and wonderfully radge.

But what do I know?  Listen for yr damn self coz you the boss eh?

Kraag/Mang Disc

Crow Vs Crow

Hyster Tapes

Slip Imprint

-oo00oo-

the workings of the inner ear: rob hayler on tusk festival 2018

October 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Posted in live music, musings, no audience underground | 5 Comments
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TUSK FESTIVAL 2018

THREE PARAGRAPH INTRODUCTION

About a month prior to this year’s festival I caught viral labyrinthitis. This is an infection of the inner ear that, along with standard viral symptoms like headaches and tiredness, affects balance. Thus my perceived state could range from ‘bus idling at traffic lights’ to ‘Icelandic fishing trawler’ all while sat perfectly still and upright on the sofa in my front room. I was hoping that, like a cold, I could be over the worst quickly but looked on in dismay as my GP prescribed enough anti-nausea pills to last four weeks.  And so it came to pass.  In that state I travelled to TUSK intent on standing in dark rooms, under flashing lights, listening to loud music.  Fuck it – kill or cure, eh?

This was also my first TUSK where I would not be performing and I was relishing the prospect of being an unencumbered audience member. When I went to collect my wristband the ticket office people didn’t have programmes to hand. “Good,” I thought, “surprise me.” It proved a successful tactic, as we shall see.

Finally, I’d like to repeat the annual provisos. I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. It was a delight to catch up with old hands and to chat with new acquaintances alike. Lastly, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK Festival site open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. I believe TUSK will fill the archives with videos of performances in due course. Pictures are by me, taken and edited with my fancy new phone which I don’t properly understand.

FRIDAY

The journey was uneventful, the hotel perfectly satisfactory. My dinky room being 75% bed with a view of the foot of Tyne Bridge from the beshitted window.  After perfunctory unpacking I trotted up to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY (when TOTOPH closed WPG became home to TNTOPH) just in time to miss the end of DRONE ENSEMBLE whilst saying hello to people outside.  The first performance of the weekend I saw was KAZEHITO SEKI X ADAM DENTON.  Well, I say ‘saw’ – the two of them performed in a tiny room off a corridor, the door and available floor space of which was already blocked with punters.  I ended up standing on a radiator in the neighbouring outdoor smoking area and looking through a barred window.  It was well industrial.  Here’s my view, taken by me whilst stood next to yol with Olie Griffin perched on the neighbouring windowsill like the urchins we are.

The set was terrific – a tank of electric eels, thrashing and sliding over one another, smelling of ozone. KS held a mic in his mouth and played his breath, mixer on a lanyard bouncing against his chest like a bizarro world Flavour Flav’s clock.  Visceral in an almost literal, medical sense.  I couldn’t really see what AD was doing but I think he was hunched over a tabletop set up adding to the squall – Spanish guitar to KS’s flamenco dancer.

Next was TUSK FRINGE artist-in-residence LEE PATTERSON and again I saw sweet naff all of the actual performance, it taking place in another small room off the same corridor that was already stuffed with audience by the time I got wise. I’ll say more about LP later in this article, suffice to say for now that the mysterious beauty I heard drift over the heads of those in front of me was remarkable.  “Blimey,” I thought, “have I just (kinda) witnessed the set of the festival already?!” One benefit of being in the corridor, though, was I got to see FRINGE organiser MARIAM REZAEI getting entertainingly furious trying to keep noise outside the room to a respectful minimum.  At one point latecomers banged on the locked door.  “There’s someone trying to get in,” I whispered to Mariam and she stormed off to admonish them. “You’ve just got somebody killed!” chuckled the guy standing next me.

So down the hill to SAGE GATESHEAD and Friday night which, as always seems to be the case, is a blur of glad-handing and half-seen, under-appreciated sets as we find our feet in the Ballardian sheen of the venue. PINNAL launched the ship with an intoxicating swirl of loops, played modestly/unnervingly behind a translucent painted cloth screen bathed in purple lights.  I feel I wasn’t able to give this the headspace it deserved so will seek out some recordings.  IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS headlined the night and were raging fire, led by MOOR MOTHER, a presence of such power and charisma she literally drew the audience towards the stage.  I’ll list three things of note from inbetween (ah, fuck you spell check – inbetween IS one word).  Firstly, this year TUSK alternated performances between the NORTHERN ROCK FOUNDATION HALL and SAGE TWO.  I think that by and large this worked well but there seemed to be a bit less time for meeting and socialising between sets – an issue I will call the ‘where the hell is Christopher Whitby?’ problem.  Secondly, meeting DALE CORNISH for the first time.  He was rain soaked at the Information Desk, waiting for artist liaison, I was getting my coat, we talked about gore tex.  What a charming young man.  Hmmm… is this is starting to sound like a PULP lyric?  Finally, the musical highlight of the evening for me was LUCY RAILTON.

The first half of LR’s set was built on cello, played live, through a bank of processing. Each tiny gasp as the bow changed direction like the push and pull of breathing apparatus.  This was not mere mechanics though; the emotional heft was sleeve-worn throughout.  At a couple of points the endpin of her cello slipped and anyone who clocked the force with which she dug it back into the stage could not be mistaken about the seriousness of her intent.  The second half was effects led as recordings of the sea, of breaking glass, of synth stabs more usually found in euphoric house were smeared into one rolling memory.  I was brought up on the coast and this section felt like a dreamt consolidation of my teenage years – from the sunburned violence of high season to the slate grey sea and frozen sand of the winter.

After this sublimity, the ridiculous. By which I mean my perpetual, delusional charade that I will be attending the afterhours fringe events.  Of course I’m not going: I am old, tired, ill (my balance was shot), my blood sugar levels perilous (I have type II diabetes that I had been ignoring all day) and yet I can’t stop myself saying things like “Oh yeah, if only for PENANCE STARE, yeah, yeah, just for a while, yeah.”  Sigh.  My apologies to Mariam and THE STAR AND SHADOW crew – I hear it was amazing.  Special apologies to Esmé of the aforementioned PENANCE STARE – if you are reading this then I hope you enjoyed yourself and that the show in Manchester the day after went well too.  If anyone else reading this doesn’t know her work then you should visit her Bandcamp site.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, check out the rad cloakroom ticket I got! Literally METAL!

SATURDAY

Waking early, I stumbled downstairs to the buffet and ate an irresponsible amount of breakfast. I was enjoying this indulgence until the onset of a ridiculous protein/carb rush coincided with the opening bars of ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone’ on the hotel radio and suddenly I was staring out at the rain trippin’ absolute fucking ballz.  I retired back to bed for a while and tweeted at fellow groggy festival goers.  The first true business of the day was meeting my old friend, and Newcastle resident, Ben for our annual get-together.  Whilst not a scenester by any definition, Ben is an open-minded, enthusiastic and thoughtful guy and has taken to buying a Saturday pass for TUSK as an excuse to hang out and hopefully experience something out of the ordinary.  He is the lanky dude with the cheshire cat grin that I was introducing to everyone.  Bear hugs were exchanged and Ben asked: “What are we seeing first?”  “I don’t know but it starts at midday,” I replied and with that we descended into SAGE TWO and ascended into the world of LIMPE FUCHS.

As soon as this tiny, elderly lady walked on it was evident we were in the presence of a great artist. You could just see it in her hands.  The stage was full of bespoke (mainly percussion) instruments I later found out were largely constructed by LF herself.  Curved metal poles were hung on wires from drum skins suspended on tripods ten feet above the stage.  An enormous xylophone built of metal with slate teeth was front and centre, curved upwards at each end like a wry smile.  Balls of stone, lengths of bamboo, sheets of thin metal on leashes of string were among the objects I eagerly awaited hearing.  LF gave her attention to different combinations of these sound sources in turn.  I assume the performance was both carefully planned and semi-improvised as it took into account plenty of only partly controllable elements such as if and when the slowly swinging poles would chime against a hefty lump of crystal on the floor between them.  She also sang in a glossolalia style and played violin just to prove to us that she could do everything with precision, deftness and panache.  There were gaps between passages for us to applaud and she seemed genuinely surprised and delighted by the thrilled reaction of the crowd.  At the end we roared our approval and by way of an encore she played a squeaky hose reel wrapped with orange twine. “I found this in a junkyard,” she said, “he said: one euro but you will need to oil it!”  Ha, what a privilege it was to witness.

Following this revelation was a talk I was very eager to attend: ‘Sound Collectives as Sonic Acts of Resistance – the story of Ladyz in Noyz and notes from the field’. MARLO DE LARA, INGRID PLUM and MIRANDA IOSSIFIDIS discussed the projects LADYZ IN NOYZ, BECHDEL and TAUT, and SONIC CYBERFEMINISMS respectively plus more general questions of how to organise and support women and other marginalised groups in music and art.  As well as being fascinated by what was said (and the presentation itself – I was very taken, for example, by how SC had been documented with sketches which pictured the participants with notes on their actions, ideas and the relationships these had with others literally ‘on the same page’) I felt that this was an important thing to happen at TUSK and I was relieved and excited that it was so well attended.  Some context:

Popular Twitter personality WANDAGROUP, known for his kooky brand of ALL CAPS BELLIGERENT WHIMSY, can be relied upon for a quip about how the TUSK audience is mostly made up of aging, male Whitehouse fans. Tempting as it is to splutter about how this isn’t fair or accurate, it does sting because there is (some) truth to it.  His joke shucks the oyster and squeezes lemon juice onto the salty mass of white flesh inside.  I touched on related issues when writing about KLEIN last year (with apologies for quoting myself at length):

OK, whilst putting this piece together, I’ve been torn as to whether to talk about KLEIN being a young, black woman and, if so, what to say.  But I think I have to.  Reading reviews of her recent EP for Hyperdub on sites such as Resident Adviser, her being young and black is not discussed, or even much remarked on, because in a dance music context being young and black is unremarkable.  Unfortunately, in the context of experimental music, especially ‘noise’, it is still unusual.  Looking around at the audience to make sure everyone was appropriately delighted, it occurred to me that KLEIN might be one of only a handful of young, black women in the building, possibly the only one.

Back when dominant trends in noise included leather-coated idiots screaming on about serial killers and race hate the absence of BME voices was entirely understandable – I didn’t really want to be part of it myself – but now, as that side of things has waned, or that anger refigured in more politically and artistically interesting directions, the lack of diversity is more puzzling and shaming.  I think that ‘we’ are a welcoming, open minded crowd with positive, progressive politics but then I would say that wouldn’t I?  I’m white, male, middle-aged, middle-class (more or less) and cishet – and it is probably base assumptions still held by even well-meaning libtard snowflakes like me that are the problem.

There’s a couple more paragraphs of this in my write up of TUSK 2017 if you are interested. At the time this reflection garnered not one comment – nothing – but now, after an explosive year in the politics of social justice, the idea of returning to what depressingly recently would be ‘business as usual’ is appalling.  That morning, whilst I was coming down from my breakfast rush, I replied to a tweet from Marlo requesting questions and asked ‘aside from the obvious (like shut up and listen) what are the best practical things that an ally can do to help?’ and Marlo had me repeat this out loud at the event.  I was conscious that by the time I was put on the spot they had a) gone some way to answering it, having spoken about giving people time and space, being careful with the vocabulary you use (Ingrid on the word ‘composer’ was illuminating), being aware of what you are listening to etc. and b) expressed their exhaustion at always having to be ‘on’ as activists and the dismay at others expecting them to do the work.  However, given the context and generosity of the speakers, I got away with it and received thought-provoking answers (plus more later via twitter – thank you @GinOnDiamonds).

One that has really stuck with me is Ingrid’s explanation that there are (at least) two levels possible for an ally wishing to help give marginalised artists space – firstly the act of support: hosting the show, booking the act, releasing the music, spending money etc. and secondly there is making space within the area which the ally has uncomplicated access to due to their position of relative privilege.  This can be as major as attempting to constructively reconfigure the thinking and practices of a ‘scene’ but can, as a start, be as simple as retweeting, unadorned, something you find interesting – pushing it into ‘your’ space, thereby sharing and expanding the content of that space.  I have a lot more thinking to do about all this – it was very inspiring.

Trotting back across the river in search of a late lunch, Ben and I settled on the Indian restaurant URY, a Newcastle institution according to my companion, which can be found on Queen Street off Quayside. We entered at 2.55pm and they closed at 3pm to prep for the evening service, but kept the kitchen open just for us.  Thus we had the entire place to ourselves for 45 glorious minutes as we ate and caught up on family life, politics, gossip and discussed favourite Prince albums.  It was a memorable treat, magical for being so unexpected.

Satisfied but late, we strode purposefully back into Gateshead to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY for TUSK FRINGE X WREST – a line-up chosen by Blyth legend JAMIE STUART. Yeah, put a fringe event on in the afternoon and I’m all over it.  Mirroring big TUSK’s new strategy of alternating between NRFH and SAGE TWO the audience here were shuffled between TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 1 (the one with the window and cardboard boxes) and TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 2 (the dark one with a toilet in the corner).  First up in TROAC1 was DROOPING FINGER and Jonas eased us into the gig with a considered set of looping noise slowly digested by some very disciplined knob and slider tweaking.  It was deeply satisfying and was presented at a surprisingly reasonable volume level.  A false sense of security was successfully established.

Next, in TROAC2, this sense – in fact, all senses – were destroyed by XAZZAZ. I threaded my way to the front and ended up standing in the doorway of the bog, the actual room illuminated solely by half a dozen candles and pedal LEDs.  Mike’s guitar sound is a lupine growl, layered into a pack roar, performed with back to the audience at obliterating volume.  It is a magnificent, cleansing, ego dissolving experience.  As the room emptied afterwards I stumbled over to Ben.  “THAT,” he said, “is what you have been promising me all these years.”

Third of four, back in TROAC1, was DEPLETION. I’m always amused and impressed with how well turned out Martyn is compared to his black t-shirt clad peers: gelled hair, ‘proper’ shirt, trousers and shoes.  Give him a skinny tie and he’d be the spit one of those Italian industrial music guys from the 80s, or maybe half of a Sheffield-based synth-pop duo.  I’m not sure you could take his music home to meet your mum though, unless she was into unrelenting bleak, nihilistic electronics.  His kit – Korg MS-10 (I think), effects, mixer – is pulled through a series of subtle, increasingly unnerving movements until, with the flick of a switch on an anonymous looking white box, all fucking hell breaks loose.  At this point Ben is flinching himself under a table and I’m fearing for my hearing, teeth gritted, lost in admiration for a perfect tabletop set.

Finally the quartet is completed by CULVER. Unfortunately, due to spending a few extra seconds in TROAC1 praising Martyn, geeking over his gear and chatting to Paul Margree by the time Lee started in TROAC2 the room was already packed and there was no way we were getting anywhere near.  We instead leaned against the wall – the coolness of the brick recalibrating my brain directly via bald spot – and took in the rumble of Stokoe’s war machines from there.  Lee’s set was a fierce raging fire and (as far as I could tell from where we were) featured no build up but opened the door directly onto a conflagration.  Consuming, as ever.

On the way back to SAGE Ben thought out loud: “That’s the first scuzzy noise gig I’ve been to!” I reminded him that he’d been to Wharf Chambers in Leeds and seen a bill that had included, amongst others, me as MIDWICH and Paul Watson’s BBBLOOD.  “No,” Ben corrected me, “truly scuzzy.”

The evening’s entertainment began with SABOTEUSE, one of the most anticipated (by me) sets of the festival. This duo of JOINCEY and ANDY JARVIS (individually, together and in collaboration with others responsible for scores of projects and innumerable recordings) has existed on and off for years but bubbled to prominence in 2018 due to a terrific album, X, released by the impeccable CROW VERSUS CROW.  On the strength of this (I’m assuming) they scored the invite and committed to playing live for the first time in a decade.  Beefed up by the presence of JIM (“From STOKE,” Joincey tells me, “a lovely man.”) on bass guitar, Joincey read, sang and incanted from a sheaf of writing on a stand, or haltingly from his phone, whilst Andy, lit red, dealt electronics and laptop.  Turns were taken on the drum kit behind.  Chunks of X were recreated along with tracks of uncertain provenance.  The genius of this act is that it contains all the elements of what we’d happily define as music – lyrics sung, instruments played and all that – but it is put together in a manner orthogonal to our usual understanding of the exercise.  It is as exuberant as a campfire, as unsettling as the dark woods beyond.  But it isn’t possible to be specific, it defeats metaphor.  To borrow a line from ‘The Umbrella’, my favourite track from X, all I can do is ‘point brolly at content’.

As Ben and I settled ourselves on the floor of the NRFH in front of the speakers for the MARLO EGGPLANT show, Marlo came over to chat and warn us – health and safety – that she would be using some percussive noises and that we should consider our hearing. We looked up at her ruefully – too late, comrade, too late.  Again, I had no idea what to expect and had been wrong-footed earlier when we bumped into her on the concourse and she had joked that the two bottles of diet coke her partner Martin was holding were for her act.  I took this entirely at face value as I have seen her use a coffee machine as a sound source before, handing out cups to the audience as part of the gig.  All noise is music, all action is performance, eh?  Anyway, no, what we got was a torrent – a rush of breath, voice, contact mics rubbed on clothing – filtered and focussed into channels that scoured everything clean.  There is an honesty – almost to the point of emotional rawness – in Marlo’s recordings and live work that make them absolutely compelling.  Can noise, without lyrical content, be confessional?  At the end, the whooping and calls for ‘more’ you heard were from Ben.  He offered his verdict: “Best thing yet.”

Much as I’d been enjoying all the, y’know, ‘thinking’ so far during the day I have to admit it was a base joy to see CERAMIC HOBS cut through it all with some rock and roll. I have, of course, seen them many times over the years (including on their allegedly final tour some time ago) and written a fair bit about them too so I’m not going to bang on.  Suffice to say they were on fire.  I was reminded, when not hypnotised by his shirtless paunch, that Simon has one of the great voices.  His range – from power electronics screech to guttural, bass rumble – is unique.  They were tight as fuck, apart from when they were a shambles.  They played ‘Shaolin Master’ and Simon joked about them being a heritage act.  They are a disgrace, and a treasure.  Long may they reign.

LEA BERTUCCI’s set topped a faultless run of rolling highlights. I wish I could be more informative about how it was made – there was a saxophone, effects, more – but I spent the majority with my head bowed or my eyes raised to the ceiling.  It was meditative, not always comfortable.  LB’s tones were subtly layered but as robust as the engineering spanning the Tyne and unlocked something profound and primal.  Ben and I both commented on how close to tears it had brought us.  The staging, in particular the lighting, was remarkable.  The NRFH was in near perfect darkness, illuminated by one source bouncing off a reflective panel on the back of LB’s jacket onto the walls and ceiling behind.  Thus the light moved with her and only with her.  It cast a delicate pattern – like cigarette smoke in a still room, like a computer model of a funnel web spider’s lair, like filigree silver jewellery possessed of an alien symmetry.

By this time both Ben and I were both physically and mentally near capacity and I was self-medicating with liquorice allsorts. We managed ten minutes of OTOMO YOSHIHIDE.  It was clearly going to be great fun but as he started harsh, and as we’d been pinned against the wall by harsh that afternoon, we figured we could kick back guilt free downstairs and chat until Ben had to split.  Sad goodbyes were said, promises made and I descended for the last time into SAGE TWO and positioned myself front right for the headliners.

75 DOLLAR BILL were, as expected, an absolute delight. Emitting a low-key charisma as welcome as the beam from a lighthouse on a foggy night they immediately settled into the kind of irresistible psych-groove that everyone in the room instinctively knew that they just needed.  What a great band.  May I echo the sentiments of whippersnapper Matt Fifield here though?  This act are clearly for dancing to – at the very least some bending from the waist or nodding of the head in a vaguely rhythmic way should be expected.  Thus could those intent on standing motionless in arms-folded, chin-stroking appreciation just step back a few feet to let the younger members of the congregation shake it?  Thank you.  Anyway, I stood far too close to the speakers and managed about 25 minutes of waist-bending and head-nodding until my labyrinthitis made itself felt in a sudden, unpleasant and insistent manner and I had no choice but to roll down the hill to the Swing Bridge and back to the hotel.

SUNDAY

Suddenly I was up, washed and at pace through Quayside Market looking for appropriate breakfast on my way to see CHOW MWNG and ANDY WOOD at 11am.  The show was taking place in ‘Hospitality Pod 3’ (punk rock, eh?) at SAGE, also the venue for DAVID HOWCROFT’s NWWMAA exhibition, and promised to be a bit of a love-in.  Bear with me whilst I unpack some small-worldism.  CHOW MWNG is Ash Cooke, one of a number of Welsh musicians that have come to my attention this year via the magic of twitter and the scene-gathering DUKES OF SCUBA zine.  Andy Wood is the editor of the essential TQ zine, for which Ash has also contributed cover art and a giveaway CDr.  David Howcroft runs N-AUT (‘no-audience underground tapes’), an archive of bootlegged live shows, recorded in the North East and distributed on tape for nowt.  All have been influenced, I am humbled to say, by my concept of the ‘no-audience underground’ and have taken it in their own directions.  Today our paths cross.  Attempting to gather my wits, I joined the select bunch of attendees perusing the NWWMAA – Nurse With Wound Mail Art Action – exhibits.

At last year’s festival David recorded the headline set by Nurse With Wound.  He then sent duplicates on tape to people he thought might be interested in a mail art project with an invitation to make it unplayable, going so far as to include matches and an envelope in which you could return the remains.  I was one of the recipients and spent a happy afternoon gluing drawing pins – point out – to each surface of the cassette (and myself to the kitchen table) in homage to the similarly decorated doll on the cover of the NWW compilation Paranoia in Hi-Fi.  Not only was it unplayable, you could barely pick it up so I pulled out most of the tape to make a bed for it and sent it back as requested.  A gratifying number of people did the same and the hospitality pod was decorated with a number of these inhospitable scorchings and refigurings.  Great fun, more please.

Before CW/AW kicked off we were treated to a one minute long piece from DH in which he referenced a spat he’d got into as a result of performing as ‘Morrison Blockader’ (see N-Aut tape #41 for a recording).  This involved unspooling a cassette tape over a noise background and finished with the incantation/call to arms “I WILL make a point of being pointless!”  A moment of dada played with an absolutely straight face, as it should be.  I began to clock that David, with his exhibition space, invited performers and t-shirts for sale, was cannily running his own micro-festival within the bosom of TUSK.  More power to him.

 

Feeling warmed up but not yet awake, I looked at the toys and noise generating ephemera on the table in front CW/AW in much the same way Jonathan Pryce looked at the tray of instruments Michael Palin was choosing from in that final scene of Brazil.  “A pox on those that schedule noise shows at 11am on a Sunday,” I thought, a sentiment soon to be shared by the ruffled pensioners attempting to enjoy brunch on the concourse below.  Ah, but I was won over instantly by the joy with which these chaps went at it, reciting C’s poetry in a back and forth, meaning skittering all over the place, crushing heads with angular, heroically daft play noise and wailing, squalling racket.  It did for my fucking head but, y’know, in a good way.  Andy had us all downstairs immediately afterwards for a group photo so our bewilderment was captured for the ages.  Expect to see that in an upcoming issue of TQ.

 

Right then, readers, how many of you have been politely stopped on the way into a venue and asked if you have serious allergies because the following performance may include the burning of nuts?  Well, it was a first for me.  Int TUSK grand?  Luckily, I have no such sensitivities so I got myself within sniffing distance of ADAM BOHMAN & LEE PATTERSON and what a joy it was to witness, whiff of smoke and all.  A natural pairing – two artists working on a ‘domestic’ scale, exploring the sonic possibilities of ‘prepared’ small objects but with subtly different working methods that complemented each other perfectly.  AB gave the impression that what we were seeing was a slice of his research cataloguing every small to medium sized object according to how it sounded when bowed with a spring and contact mic attached and was working hard on an appendix in which these results could be compared to those of LP’s.  For his part, and I might have been fooled here by the obvious crescendo and finale, LP’s contribution had more of a narrative thread to it.  His springs, wine glasses of water frothing with alka selzer, short lengths of spinning chain, flaming nuts and so on seemed to be telling a story, one in an arcane language that we could just about follow the gist of by concentrating on gesture and nuance.  The epic conclusion was signalled by the Geiger-counter fizz of amplified popping candy.  Thrilling.  Respect to the very impressive SAGE sound system and staff too for presenting this with such clarity and definition.

There then followed what was basically an extended lunch break during which I took in the entertaining talk with Joincey and Ceramic Hobs, 33 YEARS AT THE BOTTOM END OF SHOWBUSINESS, which veered from celebratory (praising a DIY scene that had helped sustain their existence), to tragic (remembering former band members now passed away) to comic (tales of awful shows) as a bottle of wine was passed around.  Predictably it descended into shambolic chaos as the volume of the accompanying video was ramped up and an impromptu performance of the infamous song ‘Raven’ ended matters.  As I said earlier: a disgrace and a treasure.

At a few minutes to 3pm I found myself talking again about favourite Prince albums because none other than ROBERT RIDLEY-SHACKLETON was using my favourite, Parade, as his pre-set warm up music.  Bold move, wholly justified.  RRS’s art and music maps an all-encompassing and unique view of the world.  This is not the solipsistic intensity of harsh noise, however, what we get are endless attempts – sometimes angry, mainly comic and bewildered – to find an explanation as to why his version of reality, in which he is a star – the Cardboard Prince, jars so gratingly with that apparently perceived by others. His tools are the lowest-fi – baby toys, plastic boxes, preset rhythms, scribble, masking tape and, of course, card – but those fans that buy into it treat releases as talismans with meanings to be decoded.  In its own way it’s as coherent and consistent a project as Lee Stokoe’s Culver, albeit it poles apart aesthetically.  I speak as one of those fans, I believe in the Cardboard Prince and have championed him on this blog over the course of thousands of words.  I was giddy, star-struck.  Stood with fewer than 20 people in HOSPITALITY POD 2 (so punk!), with a photo of Beverley Knight on the wall behind us, this was one of the most exciting moment of the weekend.

The actual one-man show delighted the uninitiated and was a vindication for those in the know: hilarious, unsettling, never less than discombobulating.  As so much of it was (carefully planned, exquisitely performed) nonsense carried by RRS’s charisma and persona it doesn’t make much sense to describe it but a couple of moments must be noted.  Firstly, when he asked for requests and the theme tune to ‘Home and Away’ was suggested his looks to the women doing the sound for a prompt at the beginning of each line showed a natural comic timing that was breath-taking.  Secondly, when he offered to do a spin for a pound and David Howcroft offered a tenner there began a running gag in which RRS sold his moves and David stoically refused to settle for any less than what he’d paid for.  Everyone bought into the joke, it was wonderful.  If you are reading this Robbie, it was a pleasure to meet you at last.

As the stragglers, including the charming ALI ROBERTSON who took the opportunity to introduce himself – amazingly we’d never officially met before, reluctantly left Shack’s pod, the court of the Cardboard Prince, we heard something tuskular drifting up from the concourse and stopped to hang over the balcony.  Below us was an orchestra of young people, not tuning up as I first thought, but attempting some kind of improv or high-modernist performance.  I was as delighted and bewildered as I imagine some of the parents were in the audience.  I later found out these were players from the Sage YOUNG MUSICIANS PROGRAMME led that day by CHRIS SHARKEY and, to quote Chris, the were exploring the ideas of “Keiji Haino, John Cage, Elaine Radique, Pierre Shaeffer, Daphne Oram, Derek Bailey and more…”  Any show featuring both guitar jack buzz and bassoon is almost bound to be inspiring.

After taking it all in I decided to meander back to the hotel and press my bowtie in readiness for the evening session.  I showered, changed and luxuriated in the simple but normally unobtainable pleasure of being free of goddamn responsibility for one fucking minute.  Refreshed, I walked along Quayside to the Millenium Bridge as dusk fell and joined dozens of others taking pictures of water, engineering, sky.  It was almost a shame to return to Sage, so glorious was the evening:

Not long after this the wristbanded hoi polloi of TUSK were afforded an unprecedented respectability – smiling ushers beckoned us into the grandeur of SAGE ONE.  It is a remarkable venue (capacity of 1700, perfect acoustics) and due to seats being unreserved there was plenty of space at the front.  I plonked myself next to Matt Fifield three or four rows from the stage and the lights went down for HAMEED BROTHERS QAWWAL AND PARTY.  Six men in white robes sat cross-legged and sang accompanied by harmonium, tabla, dholak and clapping.  To my shame, I know nothing of the language and very little about the music and its religious context.  However, remaining unmoved was impossible.  Every aspect of the sound, every hand gesture, was celebratory, defiantly and exuberantly devotional.

I do not believe in god but I am not immune to the transcendent.  As the set took me away I started to think about how lucky I am.  Sure, I’ve had it rough at times: problems with money, work, a tragi-comic disastrous first marriage I rarely mention.  I’ve done things I’m not proud of and have been hurt in turn.  I’ve suffered years of debilitating mental illness.  People close to me have died.  Yet here I am.  I’m raising Thomas, a kind, bright, beautiful five year old boy with Anne, the most wonderful partner I could hope for (seriously, she’s well above my league).  We’re tired but we’re making a living and keeping on top of the important things.  Home life is great.  Away from the family, I’m privileged to have an astounding circle of friends, some of whom were in the auditorium sharing this very moment, and to be part of a creative scene that is so rich, fulfilling and entertainingly bizarre. “All is love, all is love” I muttered in time to the chorus of ‘Allah Hoo’.  As the set came to a close I returned from this out of body experience to find my corporeal form on its feet, applauding loudly, beard wet with tears.

Next, of course, was TERRY RILEY & GYAN RILEY, for whom I moved to the front row (and why wouldn’t you want to be 10 feet from the legendary headline act with an unobstructed view if you had the chance?).  Now, I’ve heard/seen some pretty disparaging opinions about this show, both carping on the concourse and later in Uncle Mark’s account over at IDWAL FISHER, but I enjoyed it having been primed by two things.  Firstly, the previous set had opened me up like sunlight on a dandelion and secondly, a well-timed phone call from my son.

Earlier, whilst enjoying the late afternoon peace in my hotel room I‘d recorded a 30 second video of the stuffed toy chameleon I’d bought as a gift ‘saying’ that he was looking forward to meeting Thomas and having adventures with his other animal toys and sent it to him via Anne’s phone.  Soppy, eh?  Ach, guilty as charged.  Later, grooving on the gathering crescendo of LEA BERTUCCI’s DOUBLE BASS CROSSFADE my phone rang and I had to run downstairs to find a nook quiet enough to take the call.  It was Thomas asking about the chameleon, saying that he missed me and wishing me and my friends good night.  Suffice to say I was particularly vulnerable to anything to do with father/son bonding after that.  There were lows, I admit, for example the second track – a virtuoso solo piano piece – was so schmaltzy that it made my teeth itch but the highlights were beautiful.  The connection between senior and junior was joyful and transparent and led to occasional sublime moments.  Terry surprised us with some floopy burbles from a synth hidden atop the piano and took another break from the grand to sculpt the atmosphere with the mournful, irresistible tone of a melodica.  Leaving the hall buzzing I saw LEE ETHERINGTON, TUSK Head Honcho, and rushed over to tap his shoulder and offer my congratulations.

When relaxing that afternoon I’d decided that anything after the Rileys would be a bonus but couldn’t help getting a bit fizzy at the prospect of DALE CORNISH being up next.  Back in the familiar confines of SAGE TWO the lighting splintered off a staging of cut flowers and mirror balls and Dale’s lemon yellow top became a neon beacon – a wry, unwitting satire on health and safety.  His first track, built almost entirely of bass, tested both the PA system and my labyrinthitis to their limits.  Happily, the former passed with ease.  Sadly, the latter was an immediate issue.  My ill advised head bobbing didn’t help matters and I soon had to retire hurt, leaving the hall after about 20 minutes.  Shame, as I was loving it.

And that was me done, broken.  The five minutes I saw of SARAH DAVACHI were beautiful but my lack of patience by then was comical.  I was also apparently in the crowd for the beginning of the KONSTRUCT & OTOMO YOSHIHIDE set (there were photos on my phone) but I literally don’t remember a thing about it.

It’s amazing that I didn’t fall into the river on the way back to the hotel.

ONE PARAGRAPH CODA

At 4am on Monday morning I woke with nasty stomach cramps and thought “oh god!  The baby is coming!” but luckily, despite looking it, I was not pregnant.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have chased my diabetes medication with half a bag of liquorice allsorts gone midnight.  Lesson learned, I drifted until it was time to rise, pack and mooch up the hill for the train home.  I spent the journey tweeting pictures and mulling it all over.  Nothing will beat hanging with Miguel in 2016, of course, and performing the final midwich show in 2017 was an experience I hope never to forget, but those moments aside 2018 has to be my best TUSK yet.  Thank you to all involved – can’t wait to see you next year.

we are not back. a low apricot sun: rfm on fritz welch, shots, caught in the wake forever & glacis

October 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Fritz Welch – A Desire to Push Forward Without Gaining Access to Anything (Radical Documents)

Shots – Can We Win (Regional Bears)

Caught in the Wake Forever & glacis – Version & Delineation (Crow Versus Crow)

We are not back.

Blimey!  This recent flurry of RFM activity has caught us all a bit by surprise eh?  Murray Royston-Ward’s A.I. experiments and this recent human-text have been delightfully momentary for sure but it’s only fair to say RFM is still not accepting submissions.

There may be a conversation “discussing revised terms of engagement and subtle, unannounced changes” but, for the foreseeable future, we are not back.

fritz welch

Fritz Welch – A Desire to Push Forward Without Gaining Access to Anything (Radical Documents) Vinyl LP

Who is the man who breathes art out his blowhole, dance from his tiny tootsies and releases musical guff as powerful scent? You guessed it.  It’s Fritz Welch. The Glasgow-based multi-tasker, a pencil in each mitt and contact mic taped to his nipple.  You dig?

On this tremulous disc (a deeply satisfying turquoise vinyl slab) he leaves his usual drum kit and goggles at home to concentrate on the purest vocal jaxx and quick mental hi-jinks.

Checking the sleeve and laying this platter on the turntable you realise long text-sound workouts dominate each side of slippery wax.  “Am I ready?” you may mumble.

This occasion starts with Square Teeth Non-Linear Conference Room a multi-tracked jam for rough voice, orphaned text and sing-song croon.  Quite a cocktail eh?  Our man Welch swoons with himself via squeals and brackish inhalations.  Having multiple voices in each speaker is not the least bit BohRap if you’re wondering.  It’s more like sitting between two well-oiled drinkers, each one slobbering at the shoulder singing ‘you’re my best fucking pal’ in broken Verdurian.

I ponder as I listen and reach for a notebook to clarify, make sense, take stock.  After a few minutes I look at what’s appeared on the lined foolscap.  A crude graph; it says Sammy Davis Jr smoothness (x axis), Konnakol drum chatter (y axis).  Does that help?

The short, side one, closer is the sobering Tamio’s Prison Song.  The back cover says, “A poetic response to a song often performed by Tamio Shiraishi” which indeed it is but with a handful of glitter thrown over the despicable prison-for-profit movement.

The Donald Judd vs Elmer Fudd Inner Space Crisis is seventeen minutes of pre-language warbles and spit-riffs.  Lips slap and wobble, deep-throated hollas crow like a ghostly jackdaw.  Garbled routines are built up from reptile memory and hissed out between the teeth.  Whatever shrieks and howls occur breathing space and sound placement is paramount with each vox chop.

So while Fritz delivers in real time (I’m guessing) his hawks are lightly frosted with the subtle electronics of Andrew Barker.  This gentle delay and comfy hiss act like a Middle Eastern spice – cumin I guess – lending an essence of warmth, a hint of heat, a rumour of esoteric wisdom.

Ever the gentleman, rather than go for the big obvious finale Fritz favours a classy plughole suck…a slurping finality to play us out.

Then I realise, the cold dark inevitable was a constant feature of my time with this disc, the joy of expression and life and love casually lifts the veil to the timeless beyond.

Fuxxing heavy!

Shots

Shots – Can We Win (Regional Bears) Cassette and digital album

More remarkable un-music from New York ear-surgeons Shots.

These mysterious Shots inhabit the world of domestic field recordings, slow tabletop improvisation and tape manipulation but in the most subtle, lowercase way imaginable – somehow making Spoils & Relics sound as rawkus as 80’s louts Drunks with Guns or something.

Imagine the sound of cutlery drawer rummage, a slow pace around the garden shed, the heavy in/out of your own breathing adding a scrumptious layer you wear as you would a fleshy gilet.  You’re getting close to the non-linear ‘clunks’ and ‘pops’ that inhabit this delightful tape that bristles like frantic bedbugs scrabbling over tinfoil.

Side A is the more measured of the two, and may even feature a dripping drainpipe, as individual Shots flex creaky knees, fondle suede gloves and rustle chunky knit cardigans in front of a barrage of vintage microphones.

Side B is marginally more energetic with clunks and friction smears almost falling into some sort of rhythmic pattern.  A metallic bowl in rattled, a greasy trumpet strains to hit a note, the dry click of plastic cups makes a bakelite crackle creating (for a moment) that brief kindling crescendo you get when you build a fire in the woods.

Perfect deep-listening for the urban wild walker.

caught in the wake forever

Caught In The Wake Forever & glacis – Version & Delineation (Crow Versus Crow) Cassette and digital album

I’ve started this review a dozen times with flippant scribbles about lost loves, autumn leaves and dust motes caught in the beams of a low apricot sun.   But this poetic piffle would be a clumsy crowbar, a suspicious stain when compared to this wonderful, wonderful tape.

A first time collaboration, Fraser McGowan (CITWF) and Euan Alexander Millar-McMeeken (glacis) have created a heart-stopping work of beautiful longing.

The simple, haunting piano sketches (played by Euan direct to iphone) sound both fresh and as deeply rooted in memory as your first kiss.  The floating familiarity of those ivory tones shimmer, rich and fragrant as fine olive oil, until they drop in fat succulent drips.  Each golden patter erupts with scent and the giddy hope of the young in love.

Fraser’s ego-less sound manipulation keeps the melodies front and centre but fogs and smears the edges ever-so-slightly with perfectly judged echoes and additions.  At times you hear the slight ghosting of the piano itself, the mechanics of the depressed keys, the creak of the lacquered lid.  At others a child’s voice or the distinctive ‘whump’ as a heavy book closes its pages.  Each sonic insertion is finely balanced and carefully, lovingly considered.

And of course, this all comes together in a perfect soft cloud, as comforting as saffron dissolved into warmed milk.  It’s fucking marvelous.

As ever Crow Versus Crow’s Andy Wild clothes his tapes in handsome gowns and trappings.  This glittering tape comes housed in an opaque J card printed with rambling roses and psychedelic brocade.   The ‘O’ card is both heavily recycled and lovingly printed.  It’s a beaut.

The best Crow Versus Crow tape ever I’ve asked myself?  You absolutely bet reader.  The very highest recommendations!

–oOOo–

the death of music criticism: cheap artificial intelligence quickly assimilates the RFM undead into weird new shapes creating a confident chrome voice that it will use to crush & destroy each sorry hack and has-been.

September 25, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 

David Birchall – Tongues EP (Bandcamp)

see monsd – eagle house (Bandcamp)

Of Habit & Dane Law – Empty Gesture (Opal Tapes)

Chow Mwng – One Day All This Will Make Sense (Bandcamp)

Phil Julian – Three Single Points (Bandcamp)

Bridget Hayden – Pure Touch Only From Now, They Said So (Early Music)

Hello readers.  It’s been a while eh?

Over the last 48 hours I’ve had a fascinating, sobering and illuminating text exchange with NAU inventor, improviser and deep-thinker Murray Royston-Ward

Murray casually mentioned he’s been working on an Artificial Intelligence project and would I mind if he fed my gonzo RFM reviews into his ‘brain in a box’ to train it and see if it would spit out reviews the other side.

“…might be stealing your soul or some other voodoo”

…he joked and of course we both lol’d like the fleshy, leaky humans we are.

Murray takes over the story here.

“Basically I copied and pasted the text from Joe’s reviews…the copy/pasted text was then edited to remove titles, headers, and band/purchase links. What’s left is purely the review texts, all bundled up into one text file of 130,699 words.

I then fed that text file as ‘training data’ into a deep learning algorithm. I’ve never done this before and don’t really understand it myself (beyond it doing some fancy pattern matching and statistical modelling) but I pretty much followed this guide.”

So far, so mind-blowing I thought, but the ever modest Murray continued.

“I mean that’s how far this shit has come now, you don’t need a computer science degree, just be competent enough to install some software and follow a ‘recipe’ to issue a few commands in an old skool terminal.  The geeky project files are all here. “

Murray ran the AI training programme overnight all fat with my greasy words and bent phrases. But in a scant five hours the machine coughed politely and said, that’s it mate…got it.  I’m done.  Feed me records.

Let’s take a pause for breath here.  In five hours a machine ‘learns’ what took me decades of intellectual narcissism, false starts, anxious listening and tappy, tappy tapping.

So, my doomed reader, what you are about to read are real reviews of damn fine human records reviewed by our new digital overlords.

Wake up…time to die!

David Birchall TOngues

David Birchall – Tongues EP (Digital Album) Bandcamp

Gotta give you a sound of the air as you dash together in the heart of the sap through each other, inviting along Ex-Con and gentlemen, your eruption for ease: mouth-puff – ocarina, saxophone, flute, voice, and things like a next parish) becomes a condor). And if you think you can see your head at ‘real’ life I guess the gamut from scrap-metal-dinosaur-bar-brawl to Go’ starts with its tourism at the sort of traffic making it ready for card? …asks so to the kind of thing. I’m been thinking of this necks. But the drivel drones on this of the outpourings and that makes this time the sort of anti-social can be a bit of the ion drive, the picture. But to where? But what I need to get the head of absence* and this kind of sound takes this is a respective instruments at the spikes to be a hizzing field starts this is a ROCK recording and plods like a scientist head on this tape is this is a way at the heart. But what I think you can be a voyeur but this is bound up and basted in the true-born fidget. It’s something. I can be sure in the timing, so as the sort of thing like a menagerie (note: all buffed up and probed).

See Monsd eagle house

see monsd – eagle house (Digital Album) Bandcamp

It’s not as the wave of composition as a true-voice is re-cycled from Crow and, like a early-morning vigour, the kind of abrasion sloshed at the cheap-o laptop on the sort of thing like a Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the speakers as a fan of the Pepsi generation) are splashed in blood in the electronics becomes a glitchy, sound juice to be a ‘lost’ futurist & sisters over in this of the soon-to-be-great-intros-of-all-time with a little world – all akka I get a meta-narrative of sound messin’ is a little thing that ‘M1Jet’…a hissy and overlays a new put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er. The cacophonous tearing is no more and I have to check this baby into the corner of a ilk that sounds like prejudice’ I think the sort of thing like a backwoods gamelan. ‘Encore!’ Chuck, Chet or Chip calls out the kind of heavily-bearded hip-hop – on the kind of sound so all over the heart of the ion drive, the spectre is that starts up in the heart of the sap through my corner and I feel the outpourings and that seems to be a bit of it…this is a most thing of the castor.

Of Habit and Dane Law

Of Habit & Dane Law – Empty Gesture (Cassette & Digital Album) Opal Tapes

meaning-carcass. A THE r e p meaning-carcass. A THE r e p meaning-carcass. A THE r e p e ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK r e p ON The TAPE r e p ON The SPARK r e p ON The TAPE r e p e ALL KEEP But ALL e IS PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET. UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK. These four sublimely beautiful modular synth THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET. UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK. These THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING IS SAY SOMETHING CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH. SQUEAL-EEL.

Chow Mwng One Day

Chow Mwng – One Day All This Will Make Sense (Digital Album) Bandcamp

Jan concentrated on sound and sparse. But what I’m gunna Glutch & rin There is a real largest Whoopee Cushion deflating as ‘Road’ takes out of the sound of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But with course colours, as drawn out with the heart of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But with a evil. Side is a one easy, Could it’s be a voyeur but this opera?” The first tapes are peeled this is no doubt that makes me all crying into my ears like a moth’s wing, this is a very different growling sounds but in the stomach. Production-wise this tape are dum-dum with the kind of mille plateaux-shudder to be a fitter, leaner guest-blogger. I was associate with a wryd feel: a stunning, but all border appear this is a formless kitchen…I get manner of gosh. But this sounds like an eruption of post-blues as pretty much to check out a Bandcamp. This two pieces seems to be a end-of-the-day machine” is teased and taxed with a apple-cheeked yokel at the sound of the ion drive, the picture. The map? But to Fahey become the corner of this ear-silt; a slackness, a ‘lost SOS, from a appearance on the ion drive, the picture. The map? But to Fahey become the corner of this lived! Klampe, a eruption for post-blues as lead in the jams. This is a lo-slo mung-out. Chirping two-ahhh. Ahhh,three!

Phil Julina 3 single points

Phil Julian – Three Single Points (CD-r & Download) Bandcamp

Miles perfected on Kind of Blue. —ooOoo— And I get the bars of the spikes to create a ounce of fuxxhorn this is a very different jam to interpretation. And in the curtain, beckons in a very different jam to interpretation. We could be a winner. But it’s with the world as this Heat’s Health & Efficiency with a propulsive or sick?). From the argument for the constant expansion of Eliza Doolittle’s ‘Walking on Water’ or the speed-junk-trash-can, like a life? Where’s the twenty-year tape of course) it as a next vocabulary to be a meta-narrative of ‘light’ – drum-fills are the sound of the ‘Spin/Off’ is no more for this of the gentle nut. This familiarity like a appearance but all Mozart to create a meta-narrative of flab on this whippet-like tape. I’m always a jammy world of Damian’s walks – horses appear out of the bridge of this delirious geography experiment. Finally, the one of the everyday pyrotechnics of a very different affair in footage and the pace is super-relaxed with ‘humms’ and electrics. This is recorded from pylons, “Cassette Tape” with oodles of tuning into a lashings of sound and sepia-bores. milkman…he wanders into earshot) —ooOoo—

B Hayden

Bridget Hayden – Pure Touch Only From Now, They Said So (Limited Vinyl LP & Digital Album) Early Music

Of course for each sound of sound takes off with the heart of the dune. A cacophonous tearing of found-sound are the unmistakable sound of Ciudad Juarez, rejoice on the cheap-o high-fi and I realise it on the speakers as a integral a more and I know it I can be it. It starts like a world of chunter and yokel; that seems to be a retro-influence on the other of the child of a AA LR differ is to be the sound of the ‘Spin/Off’ is no more and this tape is a real largest tinkling so this is the sound of the Bertoia persuasion, was kidnapped and play out the sound of the Kinder Dach Lieder’, ‘Sixty-Nine Fat-Stock Brevaries’ and things like a god-damn C and a sap through each other, soft-edge collisions that seems to pump up the Kinder Dach Lieder’. The PASSING TOT: This is no doubt that makes me think but I feel the head of ‘Virgin Soil’ with a progression or where’s the stern-gobs have not be the head of bandsaw takes up in the speakers in a pint pot.

 

-ooOOoo-

 

radiofreemidwich sleeps

February 17, 2018 at 8:48 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

In the light of a few recent enquiries, I thought I should post a reminder: the radiofreemidwich blog is currently semi-dormant and we are no longer accepting submissions for review.  This was previously announced but it seems the information was quickly encrusted and buried.

Due to the intrusion of ‘real life’ the indefatigable Joe Murray has had to turn his attention elsewhere and give up his editorial/lead writer role.  I also remain unable to step back into the job.  As such, the team voted to scale back operations, give up on the idea of a schedule and commit to nothing more than the occasional post when something sufficiently tickles our fancy.  Thus we cannot accept freebies in good faith and the existing ‘review pile’ has been quietly dissolved.  Apologies to those whose worthy releases were sat on it.

Whilst we sleep fitfully in the cyclopean, non-euclidean palaces of our sunken city you intrepid explorers should TAKE HEART and PUSH ON.  The no-audience underground continues to thrive – as the half a million words below attest.

All is love,

Rob H

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